As the next few months are prepped to illustrate, Carla Gugino is one of the most versatile actresses working today, jumping from medium to medium and crossing genres to an incredible degree. In 2009, she played 30 and 60-year-old versions of Sally Jupiter in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (and is prepped to work with the director again in the upcoming Sucker Punch), but is just as comfortable on the small screen, where she just debuted this past weekend as new a new character on the Showtime series “Californication”.
In Every Day, Gugino plays in the world of indie drama alongside a cast that includes Liev Schrieber, Helen Hunt, Eddie Izzard and Brian Dennehy. The film stars Schreiber as Ned, a less-than-satisfied family man entering into a midlife crisis. Gugino plays Robin, an attractive co-worker with whom he begins an affair, causing Ned to reexamine what he wants from life.
Though she poses as liberally minded and sexually liberated, the character of Robin has an additional depth that thrilled Gugino and which she discussed with ComingSoon.net, alongside updates on her future projects, including the just-wrapped Mr. Popper’s Penguins. She also discusses her lack of appearance in Spy Kids 4, rumors of a Sin City 2 and the potential for a role in Snyder’s next film, the Superman reboot.
CS: How long ago did “Every Day” come your way and what made you want to get involved?
Gugino: Well, my agent gave me the script and I got a beautiful letter from Richard Levine about why he wanted me to play this character. I just opened up the script and thought, “Wow. It’s so refreshing just to read a movie about people and the struggles that people have and kind of the universal questions we have about what it is to be an adult and how to deal with that.” I also love that his woman, Robin, was just such a fun, free-spirited, wild woman. We get a little glimpse, not really the whole way, just a glimpse into the complexity of who she is. She apparently seems to be one thing and I think a part of that is true, but it’s also masking her desire to not be her.
Q: You have a pretty impressive ability to go from bigger-than-life blockbusters to smaller films like this and still deliver an actual character. Do you have an preference on the size of the production you’re doing?
Gugino: No, I really do love being able to do both, actually. And I think that doing one makes me appreciate the other as well. I just finished this movie with Jim Carrey called “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” in New York. That’s a big movie and it’s a big family studio movie and we had such a great time, but I think that I also love the idea of getting my hands dirty and getting in there and having to do something really fast and flying by the seat of your pants. There’s a real energy that comes from that as well. Also, often it’s rare in a big movie when you get a great character to play. I’ve actually been really fortunate because, like in “Watchmen,” Sally Jupiter is a fantastic character. There are other examples as well of big movies where I’ve gotten to play great characters. But oftentimes, the really beautiful, nuanced characters come from smaller films.
CS: Is it a very different experience being onset and not having those special effects?
Gugino: It’s not that big of difference and I guess that’s why I like to do film and television and theater. I really like to learn new things and stretch myself in that way so I always look at those things as being yet another skill to acquire. When you’re working on green screen and everything’s in your imagination that can be very challenging, but it can also be very liberating because you can imagine whatever you want to imagine.
CS: You do cross between mediums a lot. Richard Levine was, before this, primarily a television director. Is there a clear difference being on set for a TV show versus being on one for a film?
Gugino: No, this felt like making an independent film in that way. Interestingly enough, though, on some of those shows–the really good shows–it is like making a little independent film every week. Especially with cable shows. But no, this really felt like a film because we were shooting at Steiner in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side in Manhattan. We were shooting on the RED, so this really felt like a movie.
CS: Your character has a backstory that we never fully find out the details of. When you’re acting, do you prepare the history of your character in detail even if it’s not shown onscreen?
Gugino: For sure. I mean, I kind of have my own sense. Whether it’s a sense of if Richard agrees or not, I don’t know. So basically yes is the answer to that question. And Robin is definitely a natural free spirit. She has probably jumped around a lot in life and take on this fly-by-night sort of attitude because it is true to her. But also probably because there was probably one time where she didn’t do that and really let her guard down and thought about her dreams for the future with the wrong person and her heart was broken. And she’s realized that this is an easier way for her to live her life. So part of it is genuine and part of it is protection.
CS: Tell me a little about meeting and working with the rest of the cast.
Gugino: Well Liev is such a wonderful actor and a wonderful person. That was probably the main thing that drew me to do this, getting to do this with him. Obviously Helen Hunt is phenomenal. We just didn’t have anything together. Brian Dennehy and I did “Desire Under the Elms” together on Broadway. We did a play together. We also briefly crossed over in a movie called “Righteous Kill” as well, so it was really a great grouping of people. But yes. Working with Liev was great and I only wish it had been longer because we did all our stuff together basically in a week.
CS: What about Eddie Izzard?
Gugino: Amazing! Amazing. So much fun and also everything that you would imagine. And also a total charmer.
CS: Tell me a little about what’s coming up. You mentioned “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.”
Gugino: Yes, and I also just started on “Californication” this season. It just aired this past Sunday, in fact. I play a character called Abbey Rhodes, which is just a fantastic character’s name. I’m a lawyer who starts representing David Duchovny’s character. But because the show is called Cali-fornication, the relationship gets a little more complicated than that. It’s actually one of the best characters I’ve gotten to play in a long time. It’s so much fun and I really enjoy working on that show. Then I have a movie called “Sucker Punch” that comes out in March. There’s actually a lot of stuff coming out right now. It’s very cool. And then there’s a movie called “Elektra Luxx,” which is a sequel to “Women in Trouble.” I play a porn star called Elektra Luxx. That’s on March 11th and also on March 11th is a movie called “Girl Walks Into a Bar,” which we did with YouTube. It will be the first feature film ever to sort of premiere online with Rosario Dawson and Josh Harnett, Danny DeVito, Emmanuelle Chriqui and myself. A really great group of people. We shot it in 11 days, so it was really cool.
CS: Are you back for “Spy Kids 4″?
Gugino: No, I’m not, but I’ve been talking with Robert [Rodriguez] all through the process, so I think it’s going to be really good.
CS: What about “Sin City 2″? There’s always word that it’s coming, but never anything solid.
Gugino: I know and, sadly, that one I don’t have an official answer on, either. I hear the same things that you do. I know they’ve really been wanting to do it, but whether it actually happens or not, I don’t know.
CS: Do you have a dream role? Something you’ve always wanted to play and haven’t had the chance?
Gugino: God, I have so many dream roles yet to play. I’m always just looking for really strong roles with great directors and amazing actors. I guess I’d love to play a really proper femme fatale in a great film noir. “White Jazz” is a story that I’ve always loved and there’s a really great character in there. But I also kind of feel like there’s something better out there than I could even think of. There’s so many characters.
CS: You work with a lot of the same directors who must love working with you.
Gugino: I do love the notion of the old sense of repertory theater or a troupe of actors that get used in filmmakers’ movies. So maybe I’ve just drawn that to myself because I do really love the fact that I’ve gotten to work with the same filmmakers many times. There’s a level of trust that comes with that that I think allows for really great things to happen.
CS: You talked about effects, but I’m curious if heavy makeup like in “Watchmen” helps you transform into someone else or is it liberating to not have to worry about something like that?
Gugino: I would say it’s certainly liberating to not have to deal with all those things. Certainly in the case of prosthetics, you have to go in four hours earlier in the morning. That in and of itself is a challenge. Then you stay two hours after for them to peel everything off your face. That being said, in the case of Sally Jupiter, the prosthetics were an essential part of the character and really did inform how I played her. Same with acting with imaginary penguins. It’s challenging. So would I rather be acting with a real person? Yes. Anytime in that movie, too, where Jim [Carrey] and I got to have a scene that was just about us, it was so refreshing. There’s no doubt that getting to–and it’s why I love theater, too–act with a real person and with real dialogue is great. I love that people that are really responding to that. We have a lot of really well-written movies that are getting attention right now. They actually are about people interacting with other people. It’s not about machines. It’s not about special effects. Those are always really close to my heart because that’s what interests me the most. But I also feel really grateful to get to go do some big movie where I act with a green screen because that’s what that character needs.
CS: Is there something in the case of Robin that you do to make the character click? A way of walking or a certain costume element that the audience may not immediately notice but that helps you?
Gugino: I think that I’ve always loved the late ’60s/early ’70s and that kind of mentality. I lived in a teepee when I was a kid and I lived in a van. I had a very sort of Bohemian childhood on one side and then I also traveled around Europe and was well-educated and all those things. But I love the idea that this character is a little bit of throwback. Though she was living in a modern world, that kind of sensibility and that kind of desire to be here now. That kind of Zen philosophy that was very easy to talk about but maybe not so easy to live.
CS: I’m sorry, but did you say that you lived in a teepee?
Gugino: Yes. I had a very serious kidney operation and my mom, at the time, who had come from a very conservative family, she literally took me to recover to live in Northern California with a bunch of goldminers and she literally erected a teepee and we lived in it for about four months. It was awesome. As a kid, it was literally a dream come true.
CS: Before I go, let me ask: Has Zack Snyder talked to you about appearing in “Superman”?
Gugino: No. We’ve talked about “Superman,” which I’m so excited for him about. But at this point, I think they’re dealing with their Superman and I think every other thought comes after that. But I would always love to be in any movie that Zack does. I love working with him and Debbie Snyder so much. I’m really excited for the world that we have Zack doing this incarnation of Superman.
Every Day is now in theaters in New York and LA.